- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Charges dropped for Marine testimony

LOS ANGELES — The Marine Corps said yesterday that it had dropped all charges against a sergeant in exchange for his testimony against fellow Marines accused of killing 24 civilians in Haditha, the deadliest criminal case to arise from the Iraq war.

Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz had been charged with unpremeditated murder in the deaths of five Iraqi civilians.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who announced the deal yesterday, said the charges against Sgt. Dela Cruz were dismissed on April 2. Sgt. Dela Cruz was given immunity in exchange for his testimony, the Marine Corps said.

Sgt. Dela Cruz’s squad had suffered a fatality on Nov. 19, 2005, when its convoy was rocked by a roadside bomb blast. The troops are accused of killing 24 Iraqis in Haditha in the aftermath of the explosion.

Four enlisted Marines were charged with unpremeditated murder, and four officers were charged with failing to adequately report the deaths.


Veteran continues Haitian hunger strike

MIAMI — A Haitian-American U.S. Army veteran entered the second week of a hunger strike yesterday to protest the detention of 101 Haitians who landed in South Florida in a dilapidated sailboat.

Henri Petithomme, 32, is drinking only water and Gatorade and spoke in barely audible sentences as he described his goals.

He wants the migrants released to their families as they await deportation hearings so they can work closely with their attorneys to prepare their cases. He hopes the United States ultimately will give temporary legal status to Haitians already in the country, as it has done for citizens of several Central American nations.

Mr. Petithomme said that seeing the migrants starving and gaunt as they came off the boat awoke something in him.

“I felt a calling,” Mr. Petithomme said Monday, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with one of his homeland’s founding fathers.


Murder indictment filed in CNN shooting

ATLANTA — An ex-con who had killed someone during a robbery was indicted yesterday on murder charges stemming from a fatal shooting this month inside the complex that houses the headquarters of CNN.

Prosecutors did not say whether they would seek the death penalty against Arthur Mann for the April 3 slaying of his ex-girlfriend, Clara Riddles, 22, but they did say they will be meeting with the victim’s family within the next few weeks to discuss sentencing options.

The district attorney’s office said Mr. Mann, 39, has been charged in an eight-count indictment with murder, three counts of felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.


Veteran demands treatment for disorder

HERINGTON — An Iraq war veteran demanded treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder as he held police in a standoff outside his home for several hours, then surrendered and was taken to a hospital, police said.

The 33-year-old soldier, whose name was not released, will undergo psychiatric evaluation at Fort Riley before prosecutors decide what, if any, charges will be filed, Police Chief John Pritchard said yesterday.

“Our first concern was to get help for the family and him,” Chief Pritchard said. “At the same time, we’re finishing our investigation so the county attorney can determine how to proceed.”

The soldier had locked himself and his wife and four children inside his Herington home Sunday night but released his family when police were called, he said.

Pvt. Francisca Vega, a spokeswoman for Fort Riley, said yesterday that the man is a sergeant with the rear detachment of 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, which is in Iraq. He has been deployed at least twice, and at least one of those deployments was to Iraq, Pvt. Vega said.


Sheriff receives leukemia diagnosis

GRETNA — Harry Lee, the seven-term sheriff of Jefferson Parish, a New Orleans suburb, said yesterday that he is being treated for leukemia but still hopes to run for re-election.

Sheriff Lee, 74, said the disease was diagnosed on April 9 and that he underwent a blood transfusion yesterday. Sheriff Lee said he will travel to Stanford University next week for tests and plans to undergo whatever treatment is available. If he is feeling well, he said, he will announce his re-election plans on Sept. 4.

If treatment is successful, he said, he will run for re-election. If not, he said, he plans to endorse Chief Deputy Newell Normand.


More charges filed in kidnapping case

POTOSI — Seven more charges, including attempted murder, have been filed against a former pizzeria manager accused of kidnapping two boys and holding one of them for four years.

Michael Devlin already was charged with kidnapping Ben Ownby, 13, in January in Franklin County and with kidnapping Shawn Hornbeck, then 11, in 2002 in Washington County.

He also was charged with several counts of forcible sodomy in St. Louis County, where Mr. Devlin purportedly kept the boys, and with federal counts of child pornography and transporting a boy across state lines.

Washington County prosecutor John Rupp filed the additional charges Monday against Mr. Devlin, accusing the 41-year-old of attempted murder, kidnapping, armed criminal action, three counts of forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sodomy.

Michael Kielty, an attorney for Mr. Devlin, said prosecutors have not shared details of the accusations against his client.


Prison term given for bilking law offices

NEW YORK — A Montana man who called himself a private investigator was sentenced to more than two years in prison yesterday for bilking a dozen U.S. law offices, including a firm once used by former American International Group Chairman Maurice R. Greenberg.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Keenan also ordered Michael Lair to pay $307,103 in restitution and said his computer use will be monitored when he leaves prison.

Lair, 46, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud earlier this year, apologized to the court before his sentencing. At his guilty plea, Lair admitted that he wrongfully accepted at least $200,000 from several law firms and companies from 2003 to 2006. He had promised through a business that he operated from his home to deliver information about highly publicized lawsuits. He later admitted that he knew he could not obtain the information that the companies wanted.


Witnesses describe preacher as abusive

SELMER — Defense attorneys for a preacher’s wife accused of killing her husband began calling witnesses yesterday to try to show that the preacher was an abusive, controlling and angry man.

One defense witness testified that in 2003, when Matthew Winkler, 31, was youth minister at Central Church of Christ in McMinnville, southeast of Nashville, he saw Mary Winkler come to church with a black eye.

The church secretary in McMinnville, Lori Boyd, testified that Mr. Winkler seemed nice at first but then became demanding and cruel.

Another defense witness, Jimmy Jones of McMinnville, said Mr. Winkler screamed at him and his family in 2003 because the preacher said a barking dog kept him awake all night.


Glider pilot found on mountain ridge

FRANKLIN — A glider pilot who crashed in rough weather was found yesterday on a remote mountain ridge more than 24 hours later and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.

“The Maryland State Police’s medevac helicopter has located him and is bringing him out,” State Police Sgt. J.A. Wyatt said. The injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

Pilot Donald Kramer of Williamsport, Pa., had called his wife using his cell phone Monday to tell her that he had crashed and was injured, but Mr. Kramer lost contact with rescue teams after a power outage knocked out several cell-phone towers in Pendleton County. Search teams zeroed in on the glider’s homing beacon and found him at about 10:30 a.m., Sgt. Wyatt said.

The weather at the time of the crash was “blizzardlike conditions,” but Mr. Kramer is an experienced glider pilot, Sgt. Wyatt said. “He must have just caught a bad tail wind,” he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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